The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
Not only did Ohio State spend the month of December preparing for the Cotton Bowl against USC, but the staff also spent a considerable amount time on the recruiting trail ahead of college football's first Early Signing Period. The timing was less than ideal, but head coach Urban Meyer felt the Buckeyes did a good job of making sure one didn't negatively impact the other.
“We did very well,” Meyer said during his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday morning. “The majority of the class was signed on that date, but I didn't — the timing of that was very, very hard on my staff and myself. But it all worked out.”
With 22 players already in the fold, Ohio State's focus throughout the month of January was on a small pool of remaining targets and building relationships with recruits in the next recruiting cycle.
“January was far less drama,” Meyer said. “Far less panic like you normally deal with.”
Meyer, you may recall, was one of the more outspoken coaches when it came to the Early Signing Period. He intially believed it would speed up the recruiting process, would create uncertainty about how many players could actually be signed and wouldn't allow coaches to properly evaluate prospects during their senior years, especially those in state. He lightened that stance a bit n the following months, though, as it also lets prospects take earlier official visits and his staff doesn't have to worry about decommitments over the last month of the in the process.
“I'm going to be curious to see how our colleagues feel about it,” Meyer said. “We do have to keep in mind that the one thing that only matters is the student-athlete. Do the student-athletes have an opportunity to go where they wanted to go? And if the answer is, 'Yes,' then it was beneficial for them and I think this is something we continue. If it's not, then obviously we have to revisit it.”
Of course, college football's various legislative committees — the American Football Coaches Association, the NCAA Division I Council and the Collegiate Commissioners Association, to name a few — will be tasked with finding ways to improve the recruiting process this spring and into the summer. Meyer, again, doesn't think it should be up to coaches or administrators, though.
“This is all about the student athlete getting to go where they want to go,” he said.
It would be interesting to see if, moving forward, those legislative bodies solicit information from the prospects who have been through the process, finding out if they enjoyed having the Early Signing Day at their disposal, if it negatively impacted their recruitment or if it didn't make a difference at all. Only then will the process be perfected.
WHICH OPTION WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
As I've mentioned at length over the last few weeks, an unintended consequence of the Early Signing Period was that it allowed programs — like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State — to zero in on the “Best Player Available” late in the process instead of simply addressing needs with a lower-ranked prospect.
That's why the Buckeyes signed a fourth receiver in California's Chris Olave instead of bringing on a less-heralded three-star offensive tackle, despite the staff hoping to sign as many as five linemen this cycle.
“There reaches a point, even with the old signing period, where you say [take the] best available player,” Meyer said. “If you say we need offensive tackle, but there's not one of the same quality that we need to play here, then we move in another direction.”
Ohio State kicked the tires on several players late in the process, including Cincinnati three-star running back signee Tavion Thomas, Notre Dame three-star cornerback signee D.J. Brown and Nebraska three-star athlete signee Maurice Washington III. Whether it was something on or off the field that held them back, they simply weren't the quality of player Meyer and his staff were looking for — especially given the program is already four players above the NCAA-mandated scholarship limit.
CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS
Speaking of addressing the need at offensive tackle, who replaces the NFL-bound Jamarco Jones on the left side of the line remains to be seen. Provided he's fully healed from his leg injury, I anticipate Branden Bowen will slide back to his natural position, but keeping him healthy will be important given the overall lack of depth behind him.
“We had to [get him],” Meyer said, when asked about the importance of landing a commitment on Wednesday from Tampa five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. “[We have four-star early enrollee] Max Wray, and then obviously Thayer Munford is going to be a very good player. But everybody in the country is looking for the tall, athletic, elongated guys that can bend. They're hard to find. That's why they're paid so well in the NFL. Throw in a 3.8 grade-point average on top of that. [He's] a very intelligent guy, a very mature guy and he's a great finish to the class.”
For much of the cycle, most prognosticators — including myself — believed Ohio State had a top-flight offensive tackle locked up. After all, five-star Jackson Carman lived right down Interstate 71 in Fairfield. But he had no interest in becoming a Buckeye and took issue with everyone who assumed it was a sure thing, and ended up at Clemson instead.
The narrative that followed was that Ohio State missed out on its biggest target this recruiting cycle and the month that followed the Early Signing Period gave the Buckeyes a second chance to land a talent like Petit-Frere. Meyer tells a different story, however.
I know that received a lot of publicity and he's a fine player,” he said, “but we had our rankings well before any decisions were made and the guy we got was the one the laser lights were on.”
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
As you guys know, recruiting never stops — hence this day-after-National Signing Day edition of The Hurry Up. That’s also why Meyer, who just signed the nation’s second-best class, simply toasted his staff’s hard work and set his sights on the Class of 2019.
After all, the Buckeyes only hold one commitment right now from West Virginia four-star offensive tackle Doug Nester and have a lot of work to do to keep things rolling on the recruiting trail.
“We're going to celebrate a very high-ranked class, a bunch of players on paper that look fantastic and look even better in person,” Meyer said, noting there would be a list of top targets for the next cycle on the board in his office today. “Tomorrow, you better have the next guy on the phone for us. We already had a blitz, I want to say yesterday. I think we had 43 calls made in this office to the top [2019 prospects] in America for next year. So that's the paranoia I guess that I live with, [but it’s] how you top this year with next year's [class].”
Ohio State has been very active in recent weeks, extending offers to nearly two dozen juniors in that time period — most of which I’ll highlight tomorrow evening. Look for them to make a move with some of them sooner rather than later.